The 2018 cross country season opens a new fall of possibities for the men of Hartnell College. A year removed from winning another Coast Conference Championship, repeating second consecutive Northern California team title, and placing fifth in the state for the third year in a row, this year's team is looking to take Hartnell to the state podium for the first time. With three of last year's top eight returning lead by an improved sophomore Nick Merillana along some very impressive freshmen men, the Panthers traveled to San Luis Obispo for the Tour de Cuesta. The Fairbanks Cross Country Course is one of the few dedicated pieces of land strictly used for cross country running. With landmarks on the course known as "KB Hill", "Merle's Bridge", and "The Switchbacks", it provided the Panthers with a great early season test of fitness and strength.
Sophomore Nick Merillana has waited a full year to wear the Hartnell uniform in cross country. Merillana had an impressive spring which saw him win the Coast Conference 800m and 1500m title and earned top 8 podium places at the Norcal Championship in the 5000m and 10,000m. The former Everett Alvarez Eagle would lead much of the 4 mile race around the challenging layout at the Fairbanks course, only to see sophomore Moises Marguez of Long Beach City College secure the top spot. Merillana would place second in 22:14, his highest finish as a Panther in cross country. Fellow sophomore Luis Perez also ran among the top group much of the race and held on to seventh place in 22:29. The seventh man on last year's fifth place state championship team, Perez had a shorten track season which still saw him run lifetime bests 9:17 fro 3000m and 15:38 for 5000m. Alfredo Mejia, Jr. (23:03) and Jacob Niles (23:14) ran well to both place inside the top 14 overall. Freshman Victor Nambo (23:55) placed 23rd to complete the team scoring and give the Panthers a narrow victory over much-improved Conference foe Chabot College 59 points to 64 points. Freshmen James Young in 36th and Arturo Ponce in 37th rounded out the top seven.
The Panthers will travel to Fresno on September 8 for the Fresno Invitational. The Fresno Invitational will serve as a preview of the four mile layout at Woodward Park that is used for the CCCAA Championship in November.